The Gold Watch -or- The Nae Nae

I had a God moment at rehearsal today. The choir and full orchestra were there, including an INCREDIBLE brass section. When the opening strains of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” began in all it’s brass-filled glory, I could not even. Tears slipped down my face as I was thinking just how lucky I’d been to find CCC, and how effortless it was. Karen put her arm around me and I was so grateful that I’d really made a friend… several, in fact. It isn’t always the music that rescues me, but the people who see how hard I’m struggling and respond to it. Christmas is always a hard time for me when I’m away from Diane and Susan. I don’t want to say that’s true, but it is. My saving grace is that none of the music we’re doing is something I’ve performed with Diane as a conductor or as a young woman, her elbow on my shoulder at rehearsal so she could lean her face onto her hand. In time, those beautiful tapestry moments have come back, and even though I have no interest in protecting her future, I have every interest in protecting the parts of her past that made me who I am. I grew so much with her as a musician, and I won’t forget that fact. The God moments come when I realize that there is nothing on earth that will take those moments away from me, and she’s with me always as the angel on my shoulder who reminds me to keep singing…. to keep working toward the musician I want to be, rather than hiding in the pews.

I truly felt lost without being a church musician, especially going on without her, because I’ve been a church musician since I was three in one capacity or another. I made it a grand total of three weeks in the pews before I realized that my place wasn’t there. My place was with the other sopranos. Despite my line about wanting to sit in comfortable chairs instead of the pews, it wasn’t just that. My mother says that when she goes to church and sits in the pews, she is lost because she knows her place is at the piano. I felt the same way. I don’t attend church so much as I enjoy making it happen. When I’m preaching, I don’t generally sit with the choir, because I need to focus on what I’m going to say and pray that prayer Rev. Matt Neely taught me when I was a teenager…. “God, let the words of my mouth reach these people today, and if they can’t, push me out of the way and speak it in spite of me.” Sitting in the choir is every Sunday but those. We are doing some incredible music, and a lot of it I’ve never heard before. I’ll create a playlist on Spotify for those who want to “come to church” with me tomorrow as soon as I finish writing out all the feelings that are swirling within me.

At first, my voice was weak because I did not show up early to warm up. As I had some water, tea, and Tic-Tacs (anything to create saliva), I started to relax, and by the end of rehearsal I was on top of the world. Singing with brass does it to me every time. I wish I could bottle that top-of-the-world feeling, because I was utterly unprepared for what happened next.

Nae stood up and announced that he was retiring in July.

It caught me off-guard because I realized it would be yet another change, and then I got excited because I realized that there would be a national search for a choir director, and I had one specific name in mind. I’m not ready to let go of what that name might be, but I will tell you it’s not Diane. It’s the first boy I met when I joined a choir in PDX and was absolutely smitten with his ability as a conductor. I don’t know if he’d move to DC, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking him if he wants to submit a resume. 🙂 I knew we were kindred spirits when we pulled up to a stop light at the same time, both jamming to NPR.

I am so glad that Nae let us know this early so we have time to prepare for this enormous loss. He really is one of the best clinicians I’ve ever worked with, and as I told him today, I felt so blessed that I got to CCC while he was still there. I also asked him if he was keeping his private studio open, so stay tuned. It was literally going out on a high note to have that amazing a rehearsal, and I look forward to celebrating the joy that is Nae, rather than the sadness of his leaving.

I can’t be selfish about all this. Just because it’s a change for me doesn’t mean that it won’t be the best thing for him, and I think it will. He’s already had a 40-year career despite being relatively young, because his first job as choirmaster and accompanist was when he was fifteen. He talked about his parents having to drive him because he got his first job before he got his driver’s license. It was a sweet moment of the Spirit gathering us in close, because even though Nae’s retirement isn’t going to happen fast, the initial shock to all of us made us gather in tightly.

We need it. We need each other. We need time to save up for a gold watch.


Spotify didn’t have everything I was looking for, so here is a YouTube playlist. My personal favorite is the setting of Silent Night by Peter Anglea.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s